PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: to access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
PN Review Prize winners announced
Carcanet Press and PN Review are delighted to announce the winners of the first ever PN Review Prize. read more
Most Read... Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Kate BinghamPuddle
(PN Review 236)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue CELEBRATING JOHN ASHBERY Contributors include Mark Ford, Marina Warner, Jeremy Over, Theophilus Kwek, Sam Riviere, Luke Kennard, Philip Terry,Agnes Lehoczky, Emily Critchley, Oli Hazard and others Miles Champion The Gold Standard Rebecca Watts The Cult of the Noble Amateur Marina Tsvetaeva ‘My desire has the features of a woman’: Two Letters translated by Christopher Whyte Iain Bamforth Black and White

This report is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

The Pitch Drop Experiment Iain Bamforth
Bernard O'Donoghue's poem 'What's the Time, Mr Wolf?' in his collection Gunpowder (1995) opens with a snatch of hearsay about the amorphous inorganic material that casts a lustre on our lives:

Glass, someone once told me, is a liquid
Of such density that its sluggish
Downward seep takes centuries to work,
So medieval windows are thicker
At the bottom than the top.

To imagine that old glass flows imperceptibly, much as we imagine time itself flowing, is a beautiful conceit; alas, like most poetic ideas, it isn't true. It resembles the belief, which persisted into the twentieth century, that as pressure increased with depth the sea became more solid: in the deeps of the oceans there were 'floors' on which sunken objects gathered according to their weight. O'Donoghue goes on to reflect - more plausibly - that our flesh is subject to the same gravitational pull as cathedral windows, sagging as the years pass: 'It creeps for the earth...'. The German poet Gottfried Benn said the same thing, more laconically still, in one of his expressionist poems: 'Earth calls'. Our lives aren't time-reversal symmetric; and our bodies not even especially shapely. They perdure a few years, but with ever less buoyancy. And though we can never perceive time with our senses, we notice from the evidence of change around us that we must being living in it. So O'Donoghue's poem is actually a memento mori, an ancient and perfectly respectable theme ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image